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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Residue analysis of a CTL epitope of SARS-CoV spike protein by IFN-gamma production and bioinformatics prediction

Jun Huang13, Yingnan Cao24, Xianzhang Bu2 and Changyou Wu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Immunology, Zhongshan School of Medicine; Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Control Research of Ministry of Education, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

2 School of Pharmaceutical Science, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

3 Department of Pathogenic Biology and Immunology, Guangzhou Medical College, Guangzhou, China

4 Department of Pharmacy, Xinhua College of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

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BMC Immunology 2012, 13:50  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-13-50

Published: 10 September 2012



Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an emerging infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV. The T cell epitopes of the SARS CoV spike protein are well known, but no systematic evaluation of the functional and structural roles of each residue has been reported for these antigenic epitopes. Analysis of the functional importance of side-chains by mutational study may exaggerate the effect by imposing a structural disturbance or an unusual steric, electrostatic or hydrophobic interaction.


We demonstrated that N50 could induce significant IFN-gamma response from SARS-CoV S DNA immunized mice splenocytes by the means of ELISA, ELISPOT and FACS. Moreover, S366-374 was predicted to be an optimal epitope by bioinformatics tools: ANN, SMM, ARB and BIMAS, and confirmed by IFN-gamma response induced by a series of S358-374-derived peptides. Furthermore, each of S366-374 was replaced by alanine (A), lysine (K) or aspartic acid (D), respectively. ANN was used to estimate the binding affinity of single S366-374 mutants to H-2 Kd. Y367 and L374 were predicated to possess the most important role in peptide binding. Additionally, these one residue mutated peptides were synthesized, and IFN-gamma production induced by G368, V369, A371, T372 and K373 mutated S366-374 were decreased obviously.


We demonstrated that S366-374 is an optimal H-2 Kd CTL epitope in the SARS CoV S protein. Moreover, Y367, S370, and L374 are anchors in the epitope, while C366, G368, V369, A371, T372, and K373 may directly interact with TCR on the surface of CD8-T cells.

SARS-CoV; CTL; Epitope; Residue